Your child's potential for success in a variety of settings and activities should guide your initial search efforts.
Discover your kid's passions, strengths, and areas of improvement.
Think about their impressive academic achievements and their skills in the arts, sports, and other extracurricular activities.
The best way to help your child decide what to study in high school is to have them reflect on their interests, strengths, needs, and goals.
Having a complete picture of your child will help you find the right school for them and recognise it when you see it. It could be helpful to talk to your child's elementary school teachers if you have questions.
The best way to choose a school is to use a checklist that specifies the different types of schools available and the characteristics they should have. The checklists can be based on the section headings presented here.
If you have a specific requirement, your options will be more restricted (for example, a special educational requirement or a preference for boarding or distance education).
If not, you should begin by selecting the locations you are willing to visit, the industries you feel most comfortable working in, and, if relevant, your prefered religion or ethos.
It's up to you to decide what qualities to include on your list, but feel free to include any that you think will help your kid succeed (a strong sporting program, a particular language or a new science laboratory, for example).
Once you've found the institutions that meet your needs, you can start comparing costs and programmes. The next step is to research schools by looking at them in person, perusing their websites, and having in-person conversations with anyone who can shed light on the institution.
FAQs About Choosing School In Australia
Recent research suggests Australian families choose schools in more complex ways than comparing their results. Choice of school is a strategic exercise, where parents figure out which curriculum subjects offer the best advantage for university entry or which school communities offer the best social connections.
Melbourne schools zoning are done differently compared to that of Sydney. You are zoned for the closest to the student's residential address in most cases. Victoria also has different terminology when referring to the school zone/catchment.
Before high school, your child should bolster areas of weakness. Allowing your child to decide this for themselves will allow them to be more invested in the work and more interested in it. To learn about your child's high school's offerings, meet with their college counsellor, then back off.
The first year of school in Victoria is called Prep – which is short for 'preparatory year'. Victorian children are allowed to start school on the first day of the first term as long as they turn five by April 30 that year.
Parents can be prosecuted if they do not ensure their child goes to school. Unfortunately, it means being fined or getting a criminal conviction.
What School Is Best For Your Child?
There is no such thing as the 'perfect' school, but schools have a good 'fit'. So think about what might help your child feel they 'belong'.
Keeping a few simple points in mind can help make the process less daunting:
- figure out what is important to your family,
- try to remain objective when listening to everyone's school stories, and
- go local if possible.
Teaching Your Child To Cope
To get started, consider the principles you learned at home. Is there anything special your children need from a school? Is it crucial to have a robust arts programme?
Is it important to you that your kid can get to school on foot? Does your kid require assistance because of special requirements? Is there a particular approach to education that you feel strongly about?
Your family can make the best decision possible before you start attending school open houses or listening to the grapevine from other parents.
It's also wise to keep a low profile on the playground grapevine. Keep in mind that what one set of parents is looking for in a school may be exactly what another set of parents is trying to avoid.
It's easy to get sucked in by the stories of other families, but keep in mind that they don't know your child like you do.
And try not to stress out too much about which school your child attends (state, catholic, or independent).
It has not been shown that one type of school is better or worse for a student's academic performance than another. Reading this paper or this one is a good place to start if you want to learn more.
Therefore, 'local first' is a good mantra to adopt unless there is a compelling reason to choose a school (such as your religious belief).
Going to a local school is a great way to meet other families in the area, become more involved in the community, and encourage your children to be more self-reliant and physically active by giving them the option of walking or bicycling to and from school and other nearby destinations.
So We Have Our Shortlist. Now What?
Once you've narrowed down your list of schools, what should you look out for? Here are my top tips, tricks and tools:
Go To School.
Attend open day, meet the teachers and the principal and watch how they interact with students. While you are there, watch how the students move around the school, deal with each other, and greet their teachers. If you live close by and have the time, walk past during lunchtime to see how the students interact.
On Your Visit Look At The Environment, Not The Buildings.
Check out the classroom walls – can you see students' work or evidence of the school's ethos? It can also be a good idea to check out the children's toilets; after all, your child needs to feel comfortable going to the loo each day!
Consider The Size Of The School.
You might feel like your child will get lost in a large school, but the bigger the school, the more options available in the senior years. Smaller secondary schools can struggle to offer various subject choices or other senior certificate options. Larger primary schools can often employ specialists to teach the arts, sports, sciences, languages and keep the library open at lunchtime.
Have A Look At The School Website And Read The School Profile.
It is where the school will state its beliefs. For example, they might talk about social responsibility or their curriculum provision. You can get a sense of what the school values and offers, which may help you decide.
If You Get The Chance, Ask A Couple Of Key Questions.
One of my favourite questions is: "If my child starts to fall behind academically or behaviorally, what support would you put in place?" It gives you a sense of what the school does above and beyond the classroom to ensure every child is valued.
In Secondary Schools, Ask About Senior Certificates On Offer.
Suppose the school only offers the Victorian Certificate of Education. In that case, this might mean that when your child gets a bit older and shows an interest in vocational training subjects (VET), they may have to move to another school.
Things To Consider When Choosing A School
Looking beyond your local public primary school helps you think about what's important to you and your child.
To do this, you can look at what schools might best suit your child's personality, strengths, needs and interests. You can also consider how different schools:
- match your values and preferences
- meet your family's practical needs
- compare on factors like size, classes, facilities, results and so on
- communicate and build relationships with families.
The questions below can help.
Personal Values And Preferences
It is about looking at the fit between your family's values and the school's culture:
- Do you prefer public or private education? Are the facilities or subject choices a consideration?
- Do you want your child to attend the same school that you attended or have a different experience?
- Do you want your child to have a religious education?
- Do you need to send your child to boarding school, or are you interested in distance education or educating your child at home?
- Are you interested in a particular teaching philosophy – for example, Steiner or Montessori?
- What does your child's preschool teacher think about which school might be the best fit for your child?
Most families need to consider practical things like how children will get to and from school:
- Do you live in the same government zone as the school you're interested in? If not, does the school take enrolments outside this zone?
- How do school location, cost or difficulty of travelling to and from the school, and public transport options affect you?
- If you have other children, is it important that all your children go to the same school?
- Where are your child's friends going to school?
- Where do most of the children from your child's preschool go to school?
- What are your options for before-school, after-school and holiday care?
School Factors: Size, Classes, Facilities, Results
It can help to compare different schools' sizes, class arrangements, facilities, extracurricular activities, results and so on:
- Does the school offer a 'transition to school' program?
- Is the school small or large? What size is likely to suit your child best?
- What are the class arrangements? For example, do teachers teach in a team?
- What facilities does the school have to support your child's learning and development – for example, a library, outdoor play areas, music programs, clubs and sporting teams?
- Has the school improved its academic results over the past few years? What about its results in other areas like the arts, sport or community engagement?
- What approach does the school take to behaviour management?
- How well does the school support children with additional needs if your child has a disability, developmental delay, autism, chronic health condition or other need?
- What do other parents you know think about the different schools in your area? What are their experiences?
School Communication And Connections
Good parent-school relationships can help your child get the most out of their education:
- What opportunities are there for parent and family involvement with the school?
- How is communication between home and school managed?
- How is the school connected with the local community?
Which Schools Get The 'best' Results?
Each school's performance should be evaluated in light of its own best possible outcomes and the outcomes you want for your child, rather than using a blanket success rating based on HSC, QCE, and VCE scores to compare schools with different subjects and students.
Looking at the overall trends in students' performance in 12th grade, as well as the results of the seniors, is likely to be useful.
Many parents base their decision on the percentage of high achievers at a school, but it's important to keep in mind that schools enrol a wide variety of students and your comparisons will rarely be fair.
A more accurate comparison of schools' overall successes would involve finding out why the record looks so good (or not so good).
Similarly, many guardians are curious about their child's likelihood of enrolling in college.
Again, this number is significant, but it does not reveal anything about the schools attended, the classes taken, or the students who were given their top choice.
Examine a school's "value-added" potential. As an illustration, if a school's graduating seniors outperform projections based on their performance in prior years, the school has added value.
Think about the rate of re-hire, too. For a school to be considered successful, it is important that its students stick around until they finish Grade 12.
Two metrics are tracked by schools: seventh-year retention and tenth-year retention. Consequently, you might enquire about this in addition to the value enhancement.
Also crucial is the quality of the instructor. Once again, a large body of research suggests that while schools do make a difference, individual teachers make an even bigger one.
Tips For Choosing A School
The earlier you start looking at possible secondary schools, the more time you will have to do all the necessary research.
You will also have more time to prepare your child for the transition and a higher likelihood of getting into the school you want.
Most parents start considering secondary schools when their child is in Grade 5, but there is no harm in starting to look around even earlier than this.
If you are thinking of a private school and the application process is competitive, you might have to consider putting your child down on waiting lists at several schools when they are quite young and then weighing up your options later on.
Make A Short List
If you are looking at state schools, the first thing to think about is which zone you fall into. There is no point getting your heart set on a school only to find out that you are not in the right zone for admission.
Similarly, suppose you are interested in Catholic schools. In that case, you may want to consider which primary schools feed into the Catholic secondary schools as this will affect the likelihood that you will accept your child.
Ask Your Child What They Want
While you can always reserve the right to make the final decision, it is often useful to ask your child what they want from secondary school.
If you are considering a private school, does your child understand that there may be certain financial sacrifices your family has to make to cover the fees, and are they ok with this?
You might find that your child has more motivation for study and displays fewer behavioural problems if they are happy with the choice of secondary school.
But also keep in mind that kids don't always know what is best for them, and many will automatically opt for the school their best friend is going to, regardless of whether it is the most appropriate choice.
Think Long Term
In deciding where to send your child to high school, you should give serious consideration to the options available to them in their later years.
Choosing the best long-term path for your child when they are young can be challenging, but it is important to be aware of the possibilities.
The VCE, VCAL, VET, and IB are all available to students after they complete Year 10. This article compares and contrasts these various routes. They may also choose to forego further education and instead enrol in TAFE or begin an apprenticeship.
It's possible to get a college-level education at some schools. A more collaborative teaching approach is used, and students are urged to take an active role in their education at such institutions.
A possible side effect is a decreased emphasis on regulations and uniforms. You should instead consider whether or not this kind of school would be right for your kid.
Consider the availability of pastoral services at each institution. Is your kid different or could they use some extra help?
In this case, it's important to enquire about the school's learning support, counsellors, and "individual differences" department.
You should think about the potential growth experiences your kid could have. Is there an emphasis on leadership development, extracurricular activities, community service, or service learning at this institution? Can you put some weight on this?
Keep in mind that your child can always join extracurricular groups like scouts, cadets, community groups, or sports clubs if the school you choose does not provide many opportunities for personal development in the curriculum.
Ask Around For Feedback
School websites, publications and orientation days are designed to show each school in the most positive light, but this is unlikely to be a true indication of what happens on a day-to-day basis.
Talk to friends and family to see if they have any feedback about each school on your shortlist.
See if you can get in contact with parents whose children are currently at the school and ask some frank questions, such as "Is there anything you've been disappointed with about the school?", "Is there anything you wish the school did more of?", "How good is the school at communicating with parents?"
Consider Cost And Convenience
How critical is ease of access for you? Imagine how much less complicated things would be if your teen attended the secondary school just down the street.
Less time would be spent commuting, and they'd have more opportunities to spend time with their pals after school if they all lived nearby.
What if, though, the school of your dreams is a bit too far away to be a realistic option? How likely is it that you'd send your kid there without a ride? Let me know how much money I'll need.
Where can people go on nights out and weekends to play sports? From what part of town do you expect the bulk of your kid's pals to hail?
These problems aren't always insurmountable, and going to a further school might not always be the best option.
When deciding on a school, price may be the deciding factor for many families.
The only way that many families can afford private schools is to cut back on other areas of spending, such as vacations, new vehicles, and home improvements.
Camps, uniforms, laptops, and extracurricular activities are just some of the other expenses you can anticipate at a private school (e.g. overseas exchange programs, rowing, skiing, etc.).
Even if you believe that the quality of education provided in private schools is not superior, you may still find that your child has access to a wider variety of extracurricular activities.
However, not every student will thrive in a private school setting. Adolescents who don't want to follow the 'expected' VCE or IB path may feel out of place at a private school.
Is it important for you to have all your children attend the same secondary school? How would this help? Weigh up the pros and cons.
If you would like to send all of your children to the same secondary school, you will need to consider each child's social, emotional, and academic abilities and needs.
Keep in mind that even after making a decision, you can still change your mind.
Imagine that your child is halfway through high school and things are still not working out. Such a choice is available, though it's not one that should be made lightly or in response to a single intimidating professor or disappointing grade.
(Changing schools can cause significant emotional and social upheaval for adolescents. However, it may be the best option if you've exhausted all other avenues for getting your child the support he or she needs at school.
So long for now! Just relax and do your best in your investigation and choice-making.
Please feel free to get in touch if you need any objective, unbiased assistance with the school selection process for your child. Your child's unique educational, social, and pastoral needs can be assessed by a licenced Educational and Developmental Psychologist who will provide you with expert advice on how to best meet those needs.
Ultimately try not to get overwhelmed by the different options.
And remember, if your first choice doesn't work out for some reason, you can always change schools. Moving school is detrimental if you do it frequently, but it's not a disaster if you happen to move a couple of times.